‘What’s a beautiful face without a beautiful mind? 👓💄I want to inspire all of you to challenge yourself everyday and try to be the best you can be💪!!! Inner beauty and intelligence is so important 💕💕That’s why I always try to read at least one 📕a day!!! Today I’m reading Gatsby The Great 👍 #blessed #intelligenceissexy #innerbeauty #allaboutmyfollowers’.
So reads one Facebook post in a group where everyone pretends to be influencers. It’s accompanied with a selfie of a woman reading a book. The book is upside down.
In another group, someone pretends to be a customer trying to return a half-eaten banana, with another group member acting as a manager. A few posts down, someone is trying to get into a store that’s closing in five minutes.
These are two niche Facebook groups, styled on the viral success of the group ‘where we all pretend to be boomers’ (exactly what it says on the tin, a Facebook group in which people pretend to be baby boomers), but they’re not the only ones.
There’s a group for people that pretend to be aliens pretending to be humans, one for farmers and cows, and one where everyone is a screaming opossum (and the most common post is simply ‘AAAAAAAAH’).
None of these have reached the same level of popularity as the Boomer group which, at the time of writing, has over 220,000 members, but many of them have a few thousand members each.
All of them offer a sort of catharsis for those role-playing in these spaces. Some of them are even a sort of subversive critique of our internet-heavy culture. And, of course, some are just here for the fun of it.
The need for catharsis makes sense in the ‘group where we all pretend to be Influencers,’ where 7,000 people promote fake product lines on fake YouTube channels and collaborate with other fake influencers.
With so many people trying to present the perfect social media lifestyle, the effects can be hazardous to both poster and viewer. Nevertheless, it feels inescapable. The influencer market could be a $10 billion industry by next year, with smaller and smaller audiences required to be called an influencer (or nanoinfluencer) and fall into that stereotypical #ad way of posting.
‘This content is inundating social media,’ Taylor Berg, an admin of the ‘Influencer’ group, tells Metro.co.uk, ‘and is a bit exhausting to the regular everyday person on social media.
‘And on top of this, the idea of becoming an influencer and making money on social media is enticing to some, so there are a lot of new people trying to become influencers as well. So for some people they see a complete inundation of influencer content filling their news feeds. Both actual influencers and new people trying to position themselves as a social media influencer.’
Here, imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery, but it can be an outlet for frustration that’s enjoyable to play out.
Taylor tells us: ‘The group allows people to be silly and absurd, kind of like celebrating Halloween. You get to be something different and have fun with a character that’s totally different than who you really are and nobody is judging you for it.’
Similar notions are expressed by Jen Grey, an admin of the group where people pretend to be customers or managers which, despite only being around for a few weeks, already has over 2,000 members.
Jen tells Metro.co.uk: ‘If you have ever worked retail you can kinda relate and I think that’s what a lot of people love. You can pretend you’re at a specific store [and] finally tell the “customer” how you really feel.
‘A lot of them create fake scenarios that end up becoming really comical but there’s been a few people that have posted real life issues they’ve seen/dealt with.’
It’s the same energy of the ‘Can I Speak to the Manager?’ memes – funny, sure, but a reflection of political authority nonetheless, and one that can be expressed in the safe walled-garden of these themed groups.
While there is the opportunity to vent for those who want it, a lot of these groups are also just there to entertain and to be entertained. Role playing on the internet is not a new phenomenon, and the low barrier to entry Facebook affords means people who might not have wanted to play something like Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft can still get in on the fun.
But there is still a sense of escapism – says Angela Mary LaFave, an admin of the ‘possum group’ – as ‘many of [her] possums find it therapeutic to let out a good AAAAA and … develop some really strong possum personalities.’
The less serious groups have another function, says Dr. Dawn Branley-Bell, a psychologist specialising in cyberpsychology at Northumbria University: as well as relaxation and escapism, they also ‘provide a playful way of embracing and emphasising that not everything we read online is real.’
‘For many, these groups may provide a brief escape from reality and everyday life, and provide entertainment for entertainment’s sake,’ says Dawn. ‘That in itself can be a big enough reward.’
Occasionally, though, the separation between the digital role play and the real world isn’t big enough.
Eya Gibran, an admin for a group where everyone is a middle-aged dad, says that while the majority of the members are people in their twenties and thirties there are a number who are approaching middle age themselves and no longer have to pretend.
It’s a little like the speech at the end of The Breakfast Club, except instead of discovering brains, basketcases, and criminals, we’re aliens, animals, and middle-management.
‘At that point,’ Eya says, ‘they’re basically roasting themselves.’
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